By Bonnie Manion
One of my favorite birds in the garden is the goldfinch. It seems to have so much personality. First, it’s a beautiful, striking, lemony-gold color. Second, it eats upside down and is so much fun to watch at the bird feeder. Third, I see charms of them in late summer to fall, eating all kinds of seeds from my garden. Yes, a group of these birds is called a charm. How appropriate a word to describe them!
It’s easy to attract goldfinches to your garden. Start with hanging a special goldfinch feeder in a tree or protected spot. Goldfinch feeders are long and tubular with small openings. You also can purchase a “thistle sack” for feeding them. Make sure the feeder is high enough off the ground, away from curious cats. In addition provide a birdbath close by with fresh water.
Goldfinches eat seeds. One of their preferred seeds is called nyjer. Keep your tubular goldfinch feeder filled faithfully with fresh nyjer seed and you will have goldfinches year-round.
Nyjer seed is prone to mold if it gets wet or is exposed to a lot of humidity. It will stick and clump in the feeder, and the birds won’t touch it. Look for goldfinch feeders that open and fill from both ends. Alternate filling your feeder from each end, and your nyjer feed will stay fresh.
Goldfinches also like eating sunflower seeds (Helianthus). In fact when I plant various sunflowers in my garden, I always let some of them dry and go to seed. Those dried sunflowers become living bird feeders in my garden. It’s a special treat to see a charm of eye-catching goldfinches feasting in their usual manner: upside down on bobbing spent sunflowers.
Other plants to grow in your garden to attract goldfinches are marigolds (Tagetes), zinnias and coneflowers (Echinacea). Just remember to look the other way after they have bloomed, and don’t cut off their tops. Goldfinches love spent dandelions too.
Unlike other songbirds, goldfinches molt twice a year: in spring and fall. Molting involves losing worn and tattered feathers and replacing them with new feathers. Male goldfinches replace their lemony-gold feathers with more drab, subdued colors in the fall and winter. You might not recognize them without their usual cheery, bold colors.